When it comes to people’s sleep goals, many of us tend to focus on how many hours of sleep they get. We hear that comment from our patients all the time here at Premier Sleep Associates. While the number of hours you are in bed to sleep is a great benchmark to start with, you also need to focus on the quality of sleep and restfulness you have to get the most out of your sleep.
Some patients report they sleep 9-10 hours per night and still don’t feel refreshed. If you have a sleep condition, such as sleep apnea, your sleep may be interrupted many times per hour without knowing it. For some, even hundreds of times per hour. This result in feeling groggy or unrefreshed the next day.
Consequences of Sleep Disruption
It can become harder to react quickly or grasp new concepts when you are constantly deprived of sleep. Restorative sleep needs to be both continuous and long enough to benefit the person. Sleep disorders like sleep apnea and sleep fragmentation might make it harder to get the quality of sleep doctors and researchers recommend.
In otherwise healthy adults, sleep disruption can cause many short-term consequences such as:
Reduced quality of life
Memory, cognitive and performance deficits
For adolescents, it can affect:
Sleep disruption can cause impaired cognitive functioning and behavioral problems in children.
That’s why it is essential if you or your child has sleep disruptions caused by sleep apnea to seek treatment such as oral applicance therapy or sleep-disordered breathing treatment for children.
Quality vs Quantity of Sleep
So, which is better quality or quantity of sleep? While it's often a good thing to get more hours of sleep, especially when you’re sleep deprived, the University of Sydney published a study challenging the thought the sleep hours are the sole determiner in how refreshed and rested you feel.
Sleep studies have long focused on the duration or quantity of sleep, enforcing the importance of getting the minimum amount of sleep required for the mind and body to function optimally.
Most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep daily, according to the National Sleep Foundation. This sleep quantity is positively linked with longevity and health status. Also, the quantity of sleep is a vital component to overall health and could impact energy and mood levels.
Sleep quality, unlike sleep quantity, refers to how well you sleep. Quality is better than quantity when it comes to sleep. You’re better off getting six hours of high-quality sleep than a longer period of low-quality sleep, reports Psychology Today.
This could explain why some individuals are just fine with fewer sleep hours than average. If you can get plenty of restorative sleep in a shorter time period, you're well off. Few people, however, are able to do this. Most people require seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep.
Good quality sleep, for adults, means you generally fall asleep within a half hour or less, sleep through the night soundly with no more than one awakening and fall back to sleep within 20 minutes of waking up, reports the National Sleep Foundation.
On the other side of things, poor sleep quality is the type that leaves you lying in bed awake staring at the ceiling. It could be characterized by:
Difficulty falling and staying asleep
The amount of time you spend in bed is important since it indicates you have completed several sleep cycles. The natural progression of sleep from stage 1 to stage 2 then 3, then 2 and then REM is important, but the study suggests it’s the quality of sleep that ultimately restores the brain. Poor sleep quality, as it turns out, is associated with worse functioning, no matter how many hours of sleep you get.
How Sleep Apnea Relates to Quality of Sleep and Sleep Duration
With sleep apnea, think of it like this: someone is repeatedly tapping you on the shoulder all night long once every minute or two saying wake up and breathe! It's amazing how unaware of how disruptive your sleep is if you suffer from sleep apnea. If this is the case with you, you may not even comprehend how you can feel so tired during the day because you just spent nine hours in bed the night before.
Many people with sleep apnea have a severely fragmented REM cycle due to the increased frequency of the obstructive events because of natural paralysis that occurs during this stage which makes the airway more prone to collapse combined with the autonomic breathing that occurs during this stage of sleep whereas the response to the increased levels of CO2 and decreased levels of oxygen makes the arousal response inhibited.
What Makes Quality Sleep?
A report published in Sleep Health shows the key determinants of quality sleep. They are:
Falling asleep within a half hour or less
Sleeping a minimum of 85 percent of the time you spend in bed
Experiencing no more than one awakening per night
Being awake for 20 minutes or less after you fall asleep initially
Around 35 to 40 percent of adults in the U.S. have trouble falling asleep or experience daytime sleepiness, according to The National Sleep Foundation. Improved sleep quality can help individuals feel better during the day and improve alertness. Quality sleep also plays an essential role in:
Immune system function
Tips to Get Better Quality Sleep During Your Sleep Hours
Here are some tips that can improve your quality of sleep.
- Create a routine. Set up a routine you'll be able to follow every night at a certain time like having a cup of tea, reading a book or turning your electronics off about a half hour before you go to bed. You might be able to signal your body it's time to go to sleep by tidying up the house or taking a warm bath.
- Don't work in your bedroom. If you bring your laptop into your bedroom and use it after you've gone to bed, you need to stop. You should only use your bedroom for sleep and sex. All other activities like doing homework, watching TV or working out should be done in another room.
- Make healthier afternoon choices. While you need a healthy breakfast in the morning, you may be affecting your sleep quality with what you're doing in the afternoon. Try and limit things like sugar and caffeine in the afternoon and if possible, take a walk around the neighborhood to get some fresh air. You may be able to sleep better at night by exercising even a half hour a day.
- Avoid stimulants. Nicotine, caffeine and chocolate can keep you awake when it’s time for bed. While alcohol initially makes you feel sleepy, it can disrupt your sleep later on in the night. Avoid these things a minimum of four hours before sleep.
- Seek sleep apnea treatment. For individuals whose sleep quality is disrupted because of snoring and/or sleep apnea, consult with your doctor about dental sleep therapy in the form of oral appliances.
The seven to nine duration of sleep a night for the average adult is essential, but if it’s being disrupting all night, no amount of time in bed or sleep time will lead to refreshing sleep. Obtaining enough good quality sleep also helps maintain a healthy lifestyle. Whether it's getting a new mattress, setting an alarm or treating your sleep apnea, there are simple steps you can take to get your seven to nine hours of quality sleep.
Looking to Improve Your Quality of Sleep
If you would like a consultation with one of our dental sleep medicine experts, Steve Carstensen, DDS or Carrie Magnuson, DDS in the Bellevue or Seattle area, contact us here at Premier Sleep Associates today at (425) 698-1732 or complete our online form to schedule an appointment.